In the case of great men, their arms came to be held up by figures called “supporters.” In Scotland, these supporters are only allowed to certain institutions and to peers, chiefs, and certain lairds holding very old feudal baronies. The supporters usually stand on a grassy mound called a “compartment,” often strewn with the plant badge.
The Robertsons of Struan have the remarkably rare honor of a special compartment, granted them in recognition of their capture of the principal slayers of King James I in 1437.
This special compartment consists of a wild man lying in chains and on whom the Robertson chief’s shield rests. When a chief is allowed supporters to his arms, it is a great compliment to his clan, because it marks their importance, and such chiefs are admitted to the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs.
Struan Robertson’s supporters are a Serpent and a Dove. They are collared with bows of the Robertson Red tartan, and the dove wears a baronial cap-of-maintenance (When a family lost the lands of its old barony, as happened to Struan in 1854, the cap is coloured blue, but it still has the usual ermine brim.) The Serpent and the Dove allude to the origin of Clan Donnachaidh in the kindred of St. Columba, for they refer to a pun on the saint’s name.
Another of the same kindred, King Alexander III, made the pun on his privy seal seven centuries ago: “Esto prudens ut serpens et simplex sicut columba”—”Be wise as the Serpent and as gentle as the Dove.”